Lufthansa’s new mask policy
Lufthansa Group airlines which include Swiss and Austrian are introducing a requirement to wear a medical protective mask on their flights to and from Germany. The regulation comes into force on February 1. From that date, passengers will be required to wear either a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask or mask with the KN95/N95 standard during boarding, the flight and when leaving the aircraft. Everyday masks are then no longer permitted.
The airlines of the Lufthansa Group had already introduced a requirement to wear a mouth-nose mask on board their flights in May of last year. By adapting the regulation, the Lufthansa Group is now implementing the resolution passed by the government in Germany on January 19. This means that uniform rules apply along the entire travel chain.
Passengers will be informed by e-mail and on the airlines’ websites and social media channels.
As before, an exemption from the obligation to wear a mouth-nose covering during the flight for medical reasons is only possible if the medical certificate is issued on a form provided by Lufthansa and a negative Covid 19 test is available that is not older than 48 hours at the scheduled start of the journey.
Overall I think Lufthansa is taking the right approach. I like their policy for people travelling without a mask because of exceptions. After all, being exempt doesn’t make you exempt from infecting people! Likewise not allowing people to wear masks that are ineffective is a good thing. However, not all surgical masks are created equal given that you could have bought a surgical mask from anywhere. In terms of the FFP2 mask or mask with the KN95/N95 standard, how they will police this I simply have no idea. I have two masks that are made of cloth, both of which have filters conforming to that standard. However, neither of them say this on the mask itself. So how would they challenge anyone since many masks and filters do not say that they are of a certain standard on the actual mask?
Why total hotel quarantine isn’t feasible for the UK
I’ll start by saying that I am in favour of hotel quarantine, but only for specific countries. I can’t see why we would enforce hotel quarantine at a cost not only to the traveller, but also the taxpayer for someone coming from Australia, New Zealand or Vietnam, where there are virtually no cases. They will already have a PCT test and quarantine for 10 days. At the start last March 2020, I would have supported this, but we are long past that point. I have been criticised for stating an opinion recently, so if you don’t want to hear my opinion on why they shouldn’t implement full hotel quarantine that I suggest you scroll past.
While Australia has done well to keep COVID out, it comes at a human cost with 30,000 Australians still stranded abroad, many without jobs and dwindling money due to the cap on arrivals. Prices for flights are sky-high to return to Australia. If we try to impose hotel quarantine for every arrival, it will have the same effect with caps in numbers entering the UK and stranding people abroad.
Looking at social media, lots of people seem to think that judging by the crowd shown at Heathrow, thousands of people are ignoring the law and swanning off on holiday. Like most of covid rules, there are always a few people that break them, but the vast majority of travellers are doing it because they have to. Trying to get home after living abroad, visiting dying relatives, trying to sort out a deceased relative’s affairs abroad, legal matters, work that requires you to be physically present. Again, a lot of people think it’s businessmen that are off having jollies on the pretext of meetings. The vast majority of companies have a travel ban except for work that requires someone to be physically present such as infrastructure or medical work.
If we look at the numbers of arrivals it tells several stories. Firstly in January 2020, before COVID there were 6,099,370 passengers flying through Heathrow during the month. Currently, there are around 8,000 people a day arriving at Heathrow which is about 250,000 for the month. That’s less than 5% of the normal number. However, if we put that in the context of hotel rooms, there are 10,000 hotel rooms available in the areas surrounding Heathrow. Plus you obviously can’t take every single room as local people may need emergency accommodation at some point too. So by day 2, every single room would be full if they were single travellers as many are likely to be. Or best case scenario by day 3 if there were more families/couples. If you are going to lock people in a room for two weeks, obviously it needs to be of a certain standard and the hotel needs to be willing to assist and have security, room service etc. If we take into account all the 3*+ hotel rooms that gives around 70,000 rooms in Greater London, including many of those near Heathrow. So at a push, you may just be able to squeeze in a 10 day stay for everyone if you used every single hotel room and every hotel was suitable/willing to take part.
Obviously, practically that simply can’t work. So there are two options if we persist with the hotel quarantine option. We close the border except for UK residents or we restrict the numbers. Given that the vast majority of people arriving are already British, it leaves the likelihood that we would strand people abroad.
The costs would be borne by the traveller, but much of the work needed to put this in place would be funded by the government and ultimately the taxpayer. It would not seem a good use of money to hotel quarantine those coming from very low-risk countries.
Apparently, the cabinet is split on what we should do, with the meeting now scheduled for Tuesday. Hopefully, if they do introduce it, it will be for countries that carry a high risk and the policy will be clear and simple for travellers to use.
Sri Lanka reopens to tourists
Tourists will be allowed to stay in 55 designated hotels, which will be off-limits to locals except for staff. You can do some limited sightseeing within the “local bubble” but you are not allowed to interact with locals until after 14 days when you can move about freely. You need a PCR test up to 4 days before entry then two more tests if you stay a week and three more if you stay more than a week. The tests are relatively cheap, but I think a combination of all those factors will put the majority of people off.
Travellers will also be required to purchase insurance, costing US$12, which covers up to US$50,000 in Covid-19 related medical costs.
Sri Lanka has also confirmed that there will be no dispensation for vaccinated travellers.